Germany's Scholz under fire for laughing at voter's energy woes

Opposition MPs not amused by chancellor's chuckle about gas prices

Olaf Scholz boarding a plane on his way to the Cop27 summit in Egypt on Monday. AP
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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was in hot water on Monday after appearing to laugh at a voter’s cost-of-living concerns.

Mr Scholz could not suppress a chuckle when recalling one household’s misfortune at a time of high gas prices.

“Someone recently came up to me and said, Mr Scholz, I just switched my electric oven to a gas oven,” he said with a laugh.

“I didn’t know how sad I was supposed to look.”

Less amused opposition MPs said Mr Scholz was out of touch with the public's concerns in Germany.

Not normally known for making jokes, Mr Scholz was accused of betraying a slogan of his 2021 election campaign: “Respect for you”.

“A real sympathetic figure, our chancellor — he’s lacking any understanding for the many people worrying about their energy costs,” said conservative MP Matthias Hauer.

Florian Hahn, an opposition front bench spokesman, said: “Olaf Scholz’s election slogan seems ever more grotesque.”

During that election, Mr Scholz’s rival Armin Laschet was himself tripped up by an ill-timed chuckle.

Cameras caught Mr Laschet laughing during a sombre speech by Germany’s president in a devastated flood zone.

His stumble opened the door for Mr Scholz to vault from third to first in the polls and succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor.

Mr Scholz’s first year in power has been dominated by the war in Ukraine and the resulting energy crisis, with fuel costs up by 43 per cent.

His government is responding with a package worth up to €200 billion ($199.7bn) over two years to subsidise prices.

Updated: November 07, 2022, 12:41 PM